Silverchair Let Their Freak Flag Fly

When your band’s meteoric rise to fame leaves your fragile teenage identity feeling used up and rattled, what are three lanky Australians to do? Why, embrace their inner freak, of course! Released hot on the heels of their hit debut Frogstomp, 1997’s Freak Show offered a major comedown from Silverchair. It’s a dark record steeped in frontman Daniel Johns’ contemplations on suicide and sickness. It’s also not very good. Clearly life on the road hadn’t served up the kind of invigorating tonic the boys from Silverchair expected. What can I say? Fame is a fickle hellhole. “Freak”, the album’s pseudo title track, finds Johns’ deriding his eccentricities and lamenting the fact that he’ll never be “as cool as you.” Like with so many Silverchair numbers, he can’t help but drop his lyrical payload right out of the gate, declaring “no more maybes, your baby’s got rabies.” Fuck, man, I just got here. Silverchair aren’t messing around. These are high stakes. Johns then reinforces his own status as “a freak – of nature.” The pause for emphasis is important here since he needs you to know he’s not just any freak. There’s no iced tea in that Jack Daniel’s bottle. From there the heavy-handed references to illness fly thick and fast. “Try to be different,” croaks Johns, “well, get a different disease, seems it’s infectious to need the cold sore cream.” I think it’s time to see a doctor, Daniel. You should really get that checked out. All of it.

The appropriately bizarre music video for “Freak” features Silverchair sweating out their sins in a room full of heat lamps while being monitored by some guy in a biohazard suit. Look, I know our lads probably screwed their way across half the known world on the Frogstomp tour, but do we really need to quarantine them like Ellis Island or some shit? “Freak” heralds the healing properties of Silverchair’s sweat, which a scientist employs to great effect in restoring the youthful vitality of an elderly woman. It’s truly inspiring that Silverchair are so keen on giving back to their community. However, given Johns’ obsession with infectious disease, I only hope his assuredly tainted piss and vinegar went through a proper screening before being given to this hapless patient. Sure enough, Silverchair’s bodily fluids quickly turn her into an alien of some sort, a freak, if you will. She seems cool with it, though. In fact, the patient’s name is revealed to be Katherine Freak, as indicated on the cheque for 50 grand she makes out to Dr. Morita for services rendered. Ms. Freak even holds an account with the Mutant World Bank, so I’m pretty sure she knew exactly what she signed up for with this whole “inject me with Silverchair’s disgusting man sweat” business. Good for her. And with that, Silverchair clock out for the day and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. Another day, another dollar – and another freak on the loose! Who’d want it any other way?

 

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